When people are faced with a family law matter - such as divorce, parenting time, adoption, child support - they often have the question: how do I choose an attorney? Most people don't know a family law attorney already or don't have experience choosing any kind of lawyer at all.
From the outside, law firms may seem the same, the people working in them very similar and the lawyers interchangeable. That simply isn't the case. Every lawyer has a different approach to practice, a different perspective on how to handle your matter and unique philosophy when dealing with clients. Choosing a family law attorney is one of the more important decisions that you will make regarding your case and perhaps in your life. We have outlined some helpful tips on facts to consider when making your selection.
Get a referral from people you trust. Friends and family can be a great source of referrals to find an attorney. If they aren't able to provide one, they may know someone else that can recommend a reputable attorney.
Seek out helpful resources. Sometimes you aren't able to get a referral from someone you know. If you can't, there are many other options. Often local bar associations have referral sites or you can do a general search online.
Look at reviews carefully. Even the best attorneys will have one or two negative reviews. Rather than disqualify the attorney, it should make them more credible.
Review the law firm websites. Do they practice family law? Is family law all they do or do they have other practice areas? Is the firm's philosophy a good fit for you? Do you want a firm committed to problem resolution and keeping you out of court? Do you need a firm with a reputation as strong litigators?
Do your research on the attorney. Most states have a record of public attorney discipline available online.
Develop a list of questions. Once you have done your research, make a list of attorney options to call. Then develop a list of questions that will help you make your decision. Some examples of good questions are:
- What is your approach to family law cases?
- How do you like to communicate with your clients? (In person, email, phone?)
- How is payment handled?
- What is your background in family law?
- How would you generally approach my case?
Bringing a list of assets and debts to the initial consultation may enable the attorney to give you more specific feedback.
Stay tuned for the next post which will address considerations for selecting the attorney once you've completed these steps. For additional information on working with an attorney, review this publication from the Colorado Bar Association.